Paul R. Beswick '57
Beswick Entrepreneurship Professor Endowment
A Lifelong Commitment to WPI
By Jim Schakenbach
The late Paul Beswick was a quiet, self-effacing businessman who was uncomfortable giving advice because he did not want to pretend he had all the answers, he nevertheless had things of substance to say to both students and alumni.
Old-fashioned values resonated with Paul Beswick. Honor. Perseverance. Loyalty. Timeless virtues that transcend the latest business models and contemporary concepts. He owned a solid, well-respected New Hampshire engineering firm that produces a wide range of precision miniature brass and steel fittings, pressure regulators, cylinders, and valves used in such applications as fuel cells, bio technology, bomb and toxic gas detection, robotics, integrated circuit builders and other advanced technologies. It doesn't sound very sexy, to be sure, but his are the products that, like Beswick himself, operate behind the scenes to make other products run smoothly. However, it wasn't always that way.
By his own admission, Beswick got off to a haphazard start. "My early post-high school years and early college years were – what would you call it? – 'speckled'," he quietly chuckled during a recent interview. Yielding to his passion for working on cars, Beswick spent his first few post-high school years jumping from work in an auto parts store to a brief stint at the former Worcester Junior College, followed by three semesters at the General Motors Institute and a sponsored work program at a Connecticut ball bearing plant. When the sponsorship dried up, Beswick left GMI to work for a Massachusetts civil engineering company where he earned money to complete his college education.
Beswick applied to several reputable east coast technical colleges, but none of them would transfer credits from the unaccredited GMI. Fortunately for Beswick, one of the schools he applied to was WPI and a sympathetic Professor G. Harvey McCullough, head of the mechanical engineering department and familiar with GMI, not only got Beswick accepted at the school but got most of his credits accepted as well. "For that I have been eternally grateful," commented Beswick. "If that hadn't worked out, I might have eventually given up. WPI gave me a break when I needed it."
But getting back into school was just the beginning. "I had been away from studying for so long, that first semester was a horror show – I just barely scraped by," remembers Beswick. "But by the second and third semester I was getting into the swing of it. Everything went pretty well after that." Beswick credits his readjustment in part to another professor, Fred Webster. "I could understand him and he could understand me. He went out of his way to give me assistance that enabled me to get a few extra credits and graduate on time." Beswick also credits the school's personal approach for making his college career a successful one. "For me, what made Worcester (Polytechnic Institute) valuable was the fairly intimate, personal relationships you could have with three or four or five professors ...that dimension was very important to my success there."
Beswick graduated from WPI in 1957 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He soon put his education to work, finding employment in early 1958 (after a short, six-month stint in the Army) with ITEK Corp., a company making high-precision cameras for the government and military. In 1963 he left ITEK to start an ill-fated slow-speed clutch business that failed when he ran out of money waiting for patent approval. Undeterred, he started Beswick Engineering in Beverly, Massachusetts with friend and fellow WPI grad, Bill Constantine '58.
Constantine had purchased a machine shop there and Beswick pitched in to help him get a toe-hold. At the same time Beswick began soliciting consulting work and met a customer in the early stages of making hot-melt adhesive applicators. Several products were created to help make this device work properly. By the early 70's Beswick held several patents and had branched out into a line of miniature fittings, disconnects, valves, regulators, and a number of other products.
Today, Beswick Engineering has over forty employees, including three WPI graduates -- at times in the past employing as many as seven or eight WPI grads. Presently located just outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with an overseas branch operation in Singapore, the privately-held company enjoys solid profitability, steady growth, a sterling reputation, and a quality-of-life for its employees that could be the envy of other companies. Beswick proudly mentions that the company has never laid off workers due to economic ups and downs and regularly hires new engineers – sometimes from WPI, when he can.
"There are opportunities everywhere."
Reluctant to give advice to students and entrepreneurs because he felt "it doesn't sound right for me to give advice", Beswick, when pressed, will offer up some guidance based on years of experience. "In spite of what they say, there are opportunities everywhere and to hone your sense for finding those opportunities and exploiting them is very, very valuable...(for students and entrepreneurs) to find opportunities that come out of their own experiences and seize them is very important. You need to be looking out for those opportunities that best suit your own passion. And I think 'passion' is the operating word here."
"Perseverance," Beswick continued, " is the corollary to that word. When I started out I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; if I wasn't, I never could have persevered through some of the hardships that came up...so that eventually I could learn how to do it (grow a successful company)."
Leading by example.
When asked what he would say to a roomful of other WPI graduates and both present and potential entrepreneurs, Beswick paused. "Aw, shucks," he said. "I'm in awe of many of these other alumni who have gone on to be some vice president of IBM and that kind of thing. But when I speak at forums and so forth, the theme I come back to over and over again is perseverance, sticking to your principles, operating as ethically as you know how, and allowing your creative instincts to come forward and work on meaningful problems. If you stick to your principles...it somehow works out."
And so we come full circle. In his own words, Paul Beswick is an old-fashioned kind of guy. One who believes deeply in commitment, loyalty, and the expression of gratitude for opportunities extended above and beyond the call of duty. After leaving WPI almost fifty years ago, he never forgot the attention he received from caring professors and a school that believes in enabling students to do their very best. So, five decades later, he says "thanks" by promoting the school to high school students and bringing them to the campus for tours; speaking at campus events, including the Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation's Dinner with Entrepreneurs; and last, but certainly not least, endowing an entrepreneurial management program to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among WPI's newest generation of graduates.